When one works in an inhospitable place like Iraq and eats at a mess hall all the time, certain relatively simple things can really make your day or week.Well, today, it is cooking an entire pig that we got from the PX. Not an animal one would find in an Islamic country normally. Then there is, of course, the question of how does one cook a whole pig where we are.
Well, someone here has a La Caja China roasting box. Now, I had seen these plywood boxes lined with sheet metal on a travel
show. They were associated with the Cuban community in Miami. Little did I know that the Chinese actually invented it. Pretty ingenious.You could probably build one your self if you can do some simple sheet metal bending. This one was all plywood. The inside is lined with sheet metal and a tray with hot charcoal goes on top to cover the opening and heat up the roasting compartment. Directions are printed right on the box, so you really can’t go wrong. The pig is initially placed in the box on its back. After a couple of hours, you turn the pig so the skin is up, score the skin, and continue cooking until done. Periodically, throughout the process, you add more charcoal as the old burns down.
The guy doing the cooking has one of these at home and he said he has done six briskets at a time in the box, as well as pigs. He prepped the pig the day before and again the day of cooking, with spices, salt, and a rub. This was about a 75 lb. pig. The pig went in around 2:30 pm and was done around 7:30 pm, a little quicker than I expected.
The meat was incredibly juicy and tender. The only drawback was no smoke flavor as this is not a smoker, it is more of a big, outdoor oven. And the skin wasn’t as crispy as I would have liked. However, it was excellent meat and fed a ton of people.
Over here in Iraq, people generally work twelve hours a day, seven days a week. Parties like this are rare and everyone needs the breaks when they come along.